Rites of passage are formal and informal rituals that usher us into another phase of life. Once we cross the threshold, we are forever changed. We can never go back to who we were.
Modern society has done largely done away with rites of passage. Consequently children don’t know to whom they belong. Some adults are perpetual children. Marriage is just a piece of paper, parenthood is no longer sacred, and elders are viewed as a burden. They don’t have a role in society or the family. Death is outsourced to professionals and is “finished” in a one hour funeral.
The negative impact of all those things is incalculable. It’s like going through life without a clear identity or road map.
Benefits of Rites of Passage
- they create a relationship and bond between you and your ancestors, land, and community
- rites of passage “kill” your former self so that a new one can be reborn
- they prepare you for the challenges of different life phases
- rites of passage are instrumental in helping people know who they are so they can live with integrity
- without rites of passage, people can rebel, flounder, rage, and struggle unnecessarily through life
- rites of passage provide a sense of continuity from the past to the present
- they help us to live well and die well
Perhaps a modern way of viewing rites of passage is the awakening. Someone has a transformative experience, but they don’t have the framework or support to make sense of it. So it becomes a toss up. Will this experience make or break them?
When we have rites of passage, many of these awakenings happen as part of the maturation process. So they don’t take us by surprise or leave us alone and bewildered. When the awakening events are personal rather than something that happens to everyone, we still have elders or spiritual leaders who have gone before us to support us. We don’t have to rely on paid strangers or gurus. We have family and a tribe.
So many of us try (and fail) to get what we need from books or solitary work. Rites of passage are often powerful because they are witnessed. The family or tribe serves as the guardians to make the transition process safe and the new role legitimate. So this isn’t something that we can do alone. It takes a village. We’re here to be that village for you.